Opposing motions passed in LegCo panel meeting on franchised taxi plan

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Transport chief says any future enhancement can go hand in hand with the pilot franchise scheme despite the taxi industry crying foul over lack of consultation.

(Photo credit: Chris Lusher)

The LegCo Panel on Transport has urged the government to shelve a plan to introduce 600 premium taxis to the city.

The pilot scheme was rolled out in response to mounting complaints over poor service under the existing taxi regime which the government claims it can do very little to tackle amid the permanent licensing system. In view of the situation, the government proposed that the franchise under the new scheme should be time-limited, non-transferrable and non-renewable with a duration of five years, after which an operator must compete with other interested parties in bidding for a new franchise.

Liberal Party’s Frankie Yick Chi-ming, who represents the transport industry, criticised the government for not consulting the industry enough on the issue.

“I don’t see how the proposal can help raise the standard of the whole industry,” Yick said during a panel meeting on Friday (21 April), counter proposing a point-based penalty system for drivers and a multilateral panel to further discuss possible actions.

Lam Cheuk-ting of Democratic Party, meanwhile, applauded the effort while calling on the government to consider expanding the scheme as well as the existing regime to encourage competition. Lam’s concern over the skyrocketing taxi licence fees was shared by IT lawmaker Charles Mok and Kwok Ka-ki from the Civic Party, who both called for a mindset to be more accommodative to new business models under a sharing economy.

Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung stressed that any plans to enhance performance of the existing taxis can go hand in hand with the scheme.

Yick’s non-binding motion to shelve the plan was eventually passed by 7 votes to 5 with the support of the pro-establishment camp except Luk Chung-hung of FTU who abstained.

Other lawmakers’ motions were also endorsed. Notably, Mok called on the government to reform the existing taxi and hire-car regime by launching the franchised taxi scheme and introducing regulations on e-hailing services to encourage competitions. The panel voted in favour of his motion by 7 votes to 3. Yick was among the three those who opposed the motion while five lawmakers, including those from the pro-establishment DAB, abstained.

“My motion and Yick’s are opposite in principle so DAB should’ve voted against mine,” Mok noted. “This shows that they’re truly sitting on the fence and in the end didn’t care or really didn’t want to oppose or derail the government’s plan. Now with two opposing motions both passed, the government can do whatever it wants, not to mention that the motions are non-binding anyway.”

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